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House panel met with silence when Trump officials asked how many migrant kids have been separated

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Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

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During a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on family separation Thursday, Trump administration officials, including the former deputy director of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), could not tell legislators how many children had been kidnapped from parents under the administration’s humanitarian disaster. 

“Can anybody here on this panel challenge this? The U.S. does not know how many children have been separated from their parents,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois asked. She was met with silence. “No one,” she replied to herself. “Does anyone know how many are still separated from their parents?” More silence. “Nobody knows,” she again replied.

It was just one of the several stunning moments emerging from House Democrats’ first hearing on the 2018 “zero tolerance” policy, which resulted in the state-sanctioned kidnapping of over 2,500 children at the southern border. A watchdog report, however, found that potentially thousands more may have been separated as some administration officials were kept in the dark.

Jonathan White, a career official and former ORR deputy director, testified that he was seeing more and more children being referred to ORR in 2017, “but when he asked about it, he said he was told there was no new policy to separate families,” ABC News reported. White testified that he found about it the same way we did: on the news. “I was aware of the formal policy notification when the [former Attorney General Jeff Sessions] said it on television, on April 6.”


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